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Sir Thomas More and his Family (after Hans Holbein the Younger)

Rowland Lockey (c.1565 – London 1616)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1592 (signed and dated)

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

2490 x 3430 mm

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire and North East, National Trust

NT 960059

Caption

This painting shows Thomas More and his family in their Chelsea home. Lockey’s work is a copy made from the original by Holbein. The painting came to Nostell Priory in 1729 as part of Susannah Henshaw’s dowry. She was a descendant of More’s devoted daughter, Margaret Roper, shown kneeling on the right, her hands resting on an open book.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Sir Thomas More and his Family by Rowland Lockey (c.1565 – London 1616), bears signature and date: Rolandus Lockey/fecit a.d..1592, after Hans Holbein the Younger. The original version by Holbein is now lost. This copy of Hans Holbein's painting by the English artist Rowland Lockey, showing Sir Thomas More, his family, books, musical instruments and pets, is one of the most famous images of early Tudor family life. Holbein's original version of 1527, described by Roy Strong as `the earliest portrait conversation piece in English painting', was destroyed by fire in the eighteenth century, so Lockey's large-scale copy is now the only faithful, same-size representation of the lost original. It is also the only version to have remained in the possession of one of More's descendants. Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the most accomplished portrait artists of the 16th century. Born in Bavaria in Germany, he moved to England in 1526 and eventually became court painter to King Henry VIII. He executed over 100 full size and miniature portraits of members of King Henry's court which together provide a remarkable record of the period. 'The painting came into the Winn family about 1729, as an heirloom of Susannah Henshaw, wife of 4th Baronet, who was a descendant of More's daughter, Margaret Roper (centre right in the portrait). It was initially stored in the 4th Baronet's London house in Soho Square, where it was viewed by the antiquarian, engraver and author, George Vertue in 1731. It was probably shipped to Nostell in 1742, via the port at Hull, on board the 'George and Elizabeth'. Until the early 20th Century, it was thought to be an original painting by Hans Holbein and was considered the star piece in the Nostell collection. However, because of its size, it has always been a difficult painting to hang: it was noted by Dorothy Richardson, a visitor to Nostell in 1761, in the Lower Hall, still locked in its case, where it probably remained until the early 19th Century. It was eventually hung in the Billiard Room c.1819 and removed to the Top Hall c.1833, where it remained over the north fireplace until 1980. It was re-framed and removed to its present location in the Lower Hall after a fire in 1980, when the Top Hall was redecorated and the furnishings re-arranged. The much larger, Victorian frame remains in store.

Provenance

By descent and inheritance from Margaret Roper, More's daughter, to Susannah Henshaw, who married Sir Rowland, 4th Baronet in 1729; brought to Nostell in 1742; purchased by the National Trust in 2002

Credit line

Nostell Priory, The St Oswald Collection (National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Rolandus Lockey/fecit a.d.., dated 1592

Makers and roles

Rowland Lockey (c.1565 – London 1616), artist after Hans Holbein the younger (Augsburg 1497/8 - London 1543), artist

References

Brockwell 1915 Maurice Walter Brockwell, Catalogue of the Pictures and Other Works of Art in the Collection of Lord St Oswald at Nostell Priory, London 1915, no.1 Merriam 1983 Thomas Merriam “Unveiling of the More Family Portrait at Nostell Priory” Moreana XX 79-80 (Nov. 1983) 111-116 http://www.holbeinartworks.org/#Bookmark1 Eade and Taylor 2015 Jane Eade and David Taylor, 'The Family of Sir Thomas More Revisited' in National Trust Historic & Collections Annual (Apollo) 2015, pp. 4 - 11, fig. 4 Lewi 1974 Angela Lewi, The Thomas More Family Group, London, 1974 Waterhouse 1957, Ellis K. Waterhouse, 'Rowland and Nicholas Locky', The Burlington Magazine, vol. XCIX, no. 647, February 1957 (letter), p. 60 Town 2014 Edward Town, ‘A Biographical Dictionary of London Painters, 1547-1625’, The Walpole Society, vol. LXXVI (76), 2014

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